French police are investigating the disappearance of a 52-year-old Briton who left her home in western Charente over a year ago with just her clothes and a few thousand euros in cash and who does not has not been reviewed since.
Karen Milsom, a Bristol-born caregiver described as ‘caring’, ’empathetic’ and someone who has always kept in touch with her friends, is one of 800 Britons reported missing abroad by the Lucie Blackman Trust, a charity named for a young woman who disappeared in Japan 20 years ago and was later found murdered.
Milsom moved to France with her husband, Steven, an electrician, and their two sons, now in their twenties, 16 years ago, first finding work in the hotel and restaurant industry. More recently, she had treated an elderly British woman.
“She’s never done anything like this in the past. It is completely irrelevant for her to behave in this way, ”said her brother, Jon Ward, a blacksmith from Gloucestershire. “We are extremely worried. She would never have left her family without contact for such a long time, so I think something has happened to my sister.
Her husband said that just over a year ago she took € 6,000 and some clothes and drove away. Before leaving, there was an explosion in the house, he says.
“She was looking for an argument,” he said. “She was in one of her moods… She said no one cared about her. She would fly off the handle and a few hours later she would apologize.
He added: “I was amazed when she left. She said she would be in touch as and when she wanted … Three weeks later, I received a text to tell her that the car was at Ruffec station (40 km). He said he recovered the car in which he found a bag of men’s clothing, possibly for a charity store, which he disposed of.
“She left on her own,” he says. “I really don’t know what could have happened. I don’t think she would have taken her life. I had two phone calls from hidden numbers. I spoke to him and it was a strange conversation.
Steven said Karen took the SIM card from her late father’s phone. “Maybe she wanted a more exciting life… I hope she shows her face, but right now I’m in limbo.”
He reported her missing after being absent for three weeks. “We wanted to give him some time to fend for himself,” he said. He has since been questioned by the police on several occasions. More recently, gendarmes emptied the house’s septic tank and searched the property and surrounding area using trained sniffer dogs for human remains, he said.
Sue Jones, who has known Milson for 25 years, said they met in prenatal classes and had children the same age. After moving to France, they stayed in regular contact. She saw her friend in June of last year when Milsom was in the UK visiting family. Jones still remembered her birthday, August 25, had sent Milsom a gift and was amazed he hadn’t heard from her.
“She was a very bubbly, very caring and empathetic person,” Jones said. “But I knew she wasn’t very happy. She said she called and left messages saying ‘even if you don’t want to be in touch, just send a message saying’ I’m fine ‘. I spoke to Steven and he told me he got a text from him saying, “Thanks for giving Sue my number, tell her I’m happy.”
Jones said Milsom’s mother committed suicide when she was a teenager. “I find it hard to believe that she would do this to her children,” she added.
Jones said that at a restaurant in Bristol in June of last year, Milsom told him: ‘If I had to leave, I would go very, very far.
Claire McDermott, who lives near the couple, knew Milsom throughout her stay in France because their children attended the same school. “I knew she was terribly bored and felt she had nothing to look forward to,” McDermott said, adding that in September of last year she received a text that read, “Hey, Claire , miss and I love you all too. Will be back in December to explain and sort things out, ”but hadn’t heard anything since.
“His disappearance is completely out of character. He’s the cutest person. We continue to hope that she will knock on our door.
While the number of British nationals residing in France has been estimated at 400,000, the latest report from INSEE, the French national statistics office, estimates the figure at 148,000 in 2016, including more than 40% in less densely populated areas. populated-west including Dordogne and Charente. About a third are retired.
Jean-Charles Le Floc’h, a former French police commissioner and family friend, said it was “very unfortunate” that the police investigation did not begin until two months after Milsom’s disappearance. “It should have been reported earlier,” he said.
He said there were now three main theories. “First, she wanted to start a new life. But it takes time to plan, and someone around you would probably have figured it out. But she could have gone to meet someone; she might be hiding somewhere.
Second, she committed suicide. “But no body has been found,” Le Floc’h said, “and suicides rarely seek to hide. There is no evidence to suggest suicide. Finally, she could have been murdered, he said.
Milsom is one of more than 800 people in the files of the Lucie Blackman Trust, named after the former flight attendant who went missing in Japan in 2000 and whose dismembered body was found a year later. The trust helps families of missing persons abroad to raise awareness of their cases and gives them practical advice and assistance.
Matt Searle, the chief executive of the trust, said he had comments on the case that were passed to authorities. He said between 80 and 90 percent of their cases had been resolved in one way or another, and women made up about half of those on their files. The oldest case to be resolved was that of a person missing for 18 years, he said.
A lawyer for French law firm Caty Richard, who represents the family, said she could not comment on the details of the case as the investigation was still ongoing and the firm was bound by privacy laws.